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geometrically connected scheme

Group completed configuration spaces

We discuss configuration-spaces of “charged objects” as models for group completions of plain configuration spaces of points.

Charged particles and strings

Write Conf( n)Conf(\mathbb{R}^n) for the “plain” configuration space of unlabeled and unordered points in the Cartesian space (Euclidean space) n\mathbb{R}^n, hence the space of finite subsets of n \mathbb{R}^n . This is naturally a partial abelian topological monoid, where the addition of a pair of configurations is defined if they are disjoint, in which case it is given by their (necessarily disjoint) union [Segal 1973, p. 215].

Here we write

𝔾Conf( n)ΩB Conf( n) \mathbb{G}Conf(\mathbb{R}^n) \;\coloneqq\; \Omega B_{\sqcup} Conf(\mathbb{R}^n)

for the group completion of the configuration space with respect to this partial operation of disjoint union.

Segal 1973, Thm. 1 says, in particular, that this group completed configuration space is weak homotopy equivalent to the nn-fold iterated loop space of the n n -sphere S nS^n (the nn-Cohomotopy cocycle space of the one-point compactification cpt n\mathbb{R}^n_{cpt} of Euclidean space):

(1)𝔾Conf( n)Ω nS n, \mathbb{G} Conf(\mathbb{R}^n) \;\simeq\; \Omega^n S^n \,,

This motivates asking for more explicit descriptions of the group completed configuration space of points, itself as a configuration space, now of objects somewhat richer than plain points.

Since the group completion must introduce the existence of a kind of “anti-points” much in the sense of antiparticles, it is tempting to think that 𝔾Conf( n)\mathbb{G}Conf(\mathbb{R}^n) should be equivalent to the configuration space Conf ±( n)Conf^{\pm}(\mathbb{R}^n) of charged points, where each point in a configuration carries a label in {±1}\{\pm 1\} and where equal-charged points cannot coincide (they “repel”) while pairs of oppositely charged points may coincide in which case they annihilate [McDuff 1975, p. 94]. However, this is not the case: Conf ±( n)𝔾Conf( n)Conf^{\pm}(\mathbb{R}^n) \neq \mathbb{G}Conf(\mathbb{R}^n) [McDuff 1975, p. 96].

Still, the basic idea can be salvaged [Okuyama 2005] if only one allows charged points to be replaced by “strings” — concretely: straight line segments of finite lenght in n\mathbb{R}^n each parallel to, say, the first coordinate axis — with charged endpoints, where pair creation/annihilation of strings smoothens out the corresponding interaction of points, in the familiar way in which interactions in string theory smoothen out singular Feynman diagrams (only that here this is not postulated but emerges in order that the resulting moduli space models 𝔾Conf( n)\mathbb{G}Conf(\mathbb{R}^n)):

On the right, if a filled circle is taken to indicate that the corresponding point is part of the interval, while an open circle indicates that it is not, then the curved arrows correspond to continuous paths in the configuration space of intervals, Conf I( n)Conf^I(\mathbb{R}^n), according to Okuyama 2005, Def. 3.1-2 — there denoted I n(S 0) I_n(S^0)_{\mathbb{R}}.

With this stringy resolution of the charged points, the expected equivalence does hold [Okuyama 2005, Thm. 1]:

(2)Conf I( n)𝔾Conf( n). Conf^I(\mathbb{R}^n) \;\; \simeq \;\; \mathbb{G}Conf(\mathbb{R}^n) \,.

Loop diagrams of charged string

It follows that the fundamental group of the configuration space of charged strings in the plane 2\mathbb{R}^2 is

(3)π 1(Conf I( 2)) π 1(𝔾Conf( 2))π 1(Ω 2S 2)π 0(Ω(Ω 2S 2))π 0(Ω 3S 2))π 3(S 2) , \begin{array}{ll} \pi_1\big( Conf^I(\mathbb{R}^2) \big) & \simeq\;\; \pi_1\big( \mathbb{G}Conf(\mathbb{R}^2) \big) \;\;\simeq\;\; \pi_1\big( \Omega^2 S^2 \big) \;\;\simeq\;\; \pi_0\big( \Omega(\Omega^2 S^2) \big) \;\;\simeq\;\; \pi_0\big( \Omega^3 S^2) \big) \;\;\simeq\;\; \pi^3(S^2) \\ &\simeq\;\; \mathbb{Z} \,, \end{array}

where the first isomorphism is by Okuyama’s theorem (2), the second by Segal’s theorem (1) and the last one is the statement that the 3d homotopy group of the 2-sphere is the free group generated by the Hopf fibration.

Hence we ask which loop diagram of charged strings corresponds to the Hopf fibration, under this sequences of isomorphisms.

In the following analysis we consider continuous paths of continuous paths of configurations of charged strings – hence continuous maps [0,1] 2Conf I( 2)[0,1]^2 \to Conf^I(\mathbb{R}^2), the two main building blocks being the saddle

and the vanishing of the plain loop diagram.

The following based loop should have a non-trivial class in π 1(Conf I( 2))\pi_1\big(Conf^I(\mathbb{R}^2)\big) and we will argue that all other based loops have classes which are integral multiples of this one:

This example brings out the key difference between loops in McDuff’s configuration space of charged points and loops in Okuyama’s configuration spaces of charged strings: The former may essentially be regarded as oriented links, while the latter carry the further structure of framed links.

As such, the above is the unknot-link but equipped with non-vanishing framing number +1+1 (say, the choice of the sign is a convention).

In fact, by applying the same saddle move on the left, this shows that the Hopf link represents twice the class of the previous example in π 1(Conf I( 2))\pi_1\big(Conf^I(\mathbb{R}^2)\big).

These examples should suffice to illustrate how framed oriented link diagrams may be regarded as based loops in the Okuyama configuration space, and conversely how every based loop of Okuyama configurations – possibly up to some slight continuous deformation – comes from a framed oriented link diagram in this way. Therefore, from now on we just draw framed oriented link diagrams, in fact we will draw just oriented link diagrams and declare the framing to be the blackboard framing (as implicit already in the above examples).

Our sign convention for crossing numbers shall be

In this notation, the saddle-move looks as follows:


The vacuum and saddle move imply the 1st Reidemeister move for framed links:

Therefore, regarding framed oriented link diagrams as loops in the Okuyama configuration space descends to a map

(4)FrmdOrntdLnk /π 1(Conf I( 2)) FrmdOrntdLnk_{/\sim} \xrightarrow{\phantom{---}} \pi_1\big( Conf^I(\mathbb{R}^2) \big)

from isotopy classes of framed oriented links to the fundamental group of the Okuyama configuration space.


Under the identitification (3) this map (4)

FrmdOrntdLnkDgrms /π 1(Conf I( 2)) FrmdOrntdLnkDgrms_{/\sim} \xrightarrow{\phantom{---}} \pi_1\big( Conf^I(\mathbb{R}^2) \big) \;\simeq\; \mathbb{Z}

is given by sending a framed oriented link diagram to twice its total linking number including self-linking, namely to the sum of all the entries in its linking matrix.

Moreover, this integer value may be realized as the framing number of any framed unlink which results from successively applying the saddle move to the original link.


Since the saddle move manifestly leaves the crossing number invariant.


Besides the 1st Reidemeister move, the 2nd and 3rd also imply the following moves:

Jointly, these moves in particular make the framing number of a framed unknot a well-defined integer, being the sum of the signs of the crossings in any representing link diagram with blackboard framing.


For the trefoil knot we get ±3\pm 3:


For the figure eight knot we get 00:




Last revised on July 22, 2024 at 10:27:54. See the history of this page for a list of all contributions to it.